1 dead, thousands evacuating wildfire in Southern California

The Thomas Fire burns in Ventura County, Calif, on Monday, where officials said more than 26,000 acres have been burned and one person has died. Photo courtesy Ventura County Fire Dept./Twitter

By Sara Shayanian – UPI

One person has been killed and thousands are being forced to evacuate their homes as a fast-moving wildfire torches Southern California.

Authorities said the Thomas Fire had burned through more than 26,000 acres of land in the city of Ventura by early Tuesday. Multiple structures, including an apartment complex, have been destroyed by the flames so far.

Officials said at least one death in Ventura County has been reported, from an automobile accident that occurred as the victim tried to evacuate.

Firefighters are confronted by 50 mph winds that, accompanied with the intensity of the blaze, could make it difficult to contain.

“The prospects for containment are not good,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said. “Really, mother nature is going to decide.”

On Tuesday morning, at least 650 residents in Ventura County were under a mandatory evacuation and several thousand have been evacuated from homes nearby.

“We urge you, you must abide by these evacuation notices,” Ventura County Sheriff Jeff Dean said on Monday. “We saw the disasters and the losses that happened up north in Sonoma and this is a fast, very dangerous moving fire.”

Officials say the fire started around 6:30 p.m. Monday as a 50-acre brush fire near Santa Paula — about 40 miles east of Santa Barbara. In just a matter of hours, the Thomas Fire grew to over 10,000 acres.

“As far as getting ahead of the fire, that’s exactly what we’re doing right now, but it’s in defense of structure and property right now, not actually trying to put the fire out,” Lorenzen said.

At least 500 firefighters are fighting the blaze.

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